Let me ask you. Is there a scuba diving brand you would trust, no matter where you see the logo? If Brand X is on the front of a dive resort, does it tell you much about what to expect from that dive resort?
We are talking, here, about industry-wide brands.
We do not deny that “Joe’s Dive Shop” in town T may always be providing a high level of customer service and its clients trust Joe. But Joe’s Dive Shop is in only one town. What happens when Joe’s clients want to go diving in the Caribbean for the first time? Which brand can they trust? Can they rely on any of the dive industry brands to determine the best dive resort to pick?
1. The Reliability of Scuba Diving Brands
Let’s look at two scenarios.
Training Agency Scenario
Fred selects a local dive center in his hometown to get his scuba diver certification card. The service is outstanding from the first time he called to the time he received his c-card. He’s impressed.
He’s looking to go diving in the Caribbean. Happy with the service he got at the local ‘Certification Agency X’ dive shop, he looks for a ‘Certification Agency X’ resort, using the training agency’s “Find a Dive Shop” locator on its website. He invests a fair amount of money on the whole trip, including airfare and lodging.
He’s at the resort for a week. The welcoming at the dive center was lukewarm. Nobody seemed to have time for him. The first morning on the dive boat, the divemaster ignores him. This divemaster seemed only interested by the Brazilian in a tiny bikini. Fred gets very low on air trying to keep up with the divemaster. He didn’t see anything underwater except the fins of the divemaster continually swimming away. He surfaces far from the boat and has to swim against the current, back to the dive boat. Because of the waves, Fred keeps on using his regulator until the cylinder is empty, then switches to the snorkel. He’s a new diver with no experience in the ocean. Once he gets to the ladder, the divemaster on the boat is giving him a piece of his mind because Fred came back with an empty scuba cylinder. This is a real-life story, by the way.
What happened here? And what is the consequence of it?
Clearly, there’s a severe lack of quality assurance. You cannot trust the ‘Certification Agency X’ logo to mean anything. Only god knows what experience you will get from one dive center to another one.
What happens next? Do you think this state of affair has an impact on the significant drop-out rate in the dive industry? You bet it does. In fact, in this real-life story we just summarized, Fred went to the dive center on the next morning to let them know that he would not be diving for the rest of the week. He didn’t even ask for a refund. He didn’t want to hear anything about scuba diving ever again. Certainly, there are other activities he can enjoy on this island for the rest of the week.
The fundamental problem, here, is a lack of consistency in the quality of the experience you get from one ‘Certification Agency X’ center to another one.
The same situation can happen under any acronym you pick as a training agency. And the same occurs with dive gear brands.
Dive Gear Brand Scenario
Here’s another real-life story. John is an executive in a multinational company. He always buys the best in cars, appliances, vacations and, of course, dive gear. He spends a bundle getting the most expensive ‘Brand W’ gear, from the dive shop where he did his entry-level diver course.
After a year, he brought back his regulator for servicing at that same dive center. The so-called technician reassembled the regulator using a ‘Brand S’ filter that was too small for the hole and, therefore, filtering nothing.
Will John ever go back to this ‘Brand W’ dive shop? Certainly not. Will he keep on using and trusting the ‘Brand W’ brand? Maybe, maybe not.
2. The Benefits of a Reliable Scuba Diving Brand
I had an awful experience with the service I received from a GM dealer when I was 24 years old. I swore I would never buy from GM ever again – and I followed through.
One lousy experience under your brand name can cost your brand a lot of money, for years to come. So why are training agencies and dive gear manufacturers so indifferent to how battered their brand is out there? Too busy repeating the same things they’ve been doing for decades? Looking at the dive industry shrinking and doing nothing about it? Sleeping on the job? Either way, it’s mind-boggling.
For the industry as a whole, this lack of consistency in the quality of the experience under scuba diving brands is a factor fuelling the dive industry drop-out rate, and we need to fix it. Whoever steps up to the plate will reap the rewards of being the first reliable brand in scuba diving.
3. Using Reviews as a Work Around
One day, I was having a discussion about this issue of the unreliability of scuba diving brands on the front door of dive centers, with the CEO of one of the dive gear brands in the industry. He admitted that there was a total lack of consistency in the quality of the service from one dive center selling his brand, to the next. Ok. So you would think he’ll work on it? No.
His answer was along these lines: “Divers can simply check the reviews on TripAdvisor and such.” I fell off my chair.
Imagine this. You want to stop at a McDonald’s restaurant to grab a quick cheeseburger. Before doing so, you have to open an app and find that specific McDonald’s restaurant to know if they are really selling hamburgers and how many cockroaches have been spotted in that restaurant lately. Nonsense.
4. What’s Next?
There are no reliable scuba diving brands.
It’s a problem for consumers who do not want to waste their money. It’s a problem for well-run local dive shops and resorts managing their business correctly but having to deal with the bad reputation of the brands they carry. And it should be of the utmost concern to private equity firms investing in the dive industry. Why would you “buy a brand” that has no real value?
What can we do about it? The short answer is pretty simple. There is a lack of consistency in the quality of the experience. And a lack of reliability for any scuba diving brand. One could assume that all we need is better quality assurance. Maybe. But it’s such an important topic that we will come back to it in “Strategy: Quality Assurance & Branding in the Dive Industry.”